Figuring out which tasks you need to handle first can be very difficult during a typical business day because everybody thinks their own project is the most important. When you’ve got a mountain of tasks to dig into and don’t know which one to tackle first, try these tips to help you prioritize.
1. List All Your Tasks
Make a list of everything, no matter how big or small, that you need to get done. This doesn’t have to be in any particular order – right now, you’re just focused on making sure that you have everything jotted down in one easy to read format. This allows you to take in the full scope of your different projects and makes sure that you don’t accidentally leave anything out when it comes time to determine which tasks you take on right away.
2. Set Your Deadlines
Every task has a deadline, even if that deadline is best described as indefinite. This is the time to determine the time frame that each task needs to get finished within. This isn’t a matter of deciding when you or somebody else would like to get them done by, but rather when they need to be done without some sort of negative consequence kicking in. You aren’t prioritizing these just yet because urgent doesn’t always mean important. The distinction between the two is handled in the next step.
3. Consider the Worst-Case Scenarios
For each task, think about what happens if you don’t get it done in time. Is there a possibility to extend a deadline? Does a project fall through without a certain report filed at a certain time? Is a specific task of particular importance to your immediate supervisor? This step helps you fully understand the level of priority that each task has. Some items might have a tight timeframe but few consequences if they don’t get done. Those can be set aside in order to tackle the tasks that are both urgent and important.
4. Estimate the Effort for Each Task
How hard do you need to work on each task in order to get it done? A task that is low priority but which can be done in ten minutes might be worth taking care of right now so you don’t have to worry about it in the future.
Assigning an effort level to each task is the final piece of puzzle in ranking the items in your workload. After this, you know what you have to do when it needs to be done by what the consequences for failure are, and how much effort you will need in order to get it all done.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If your task list still seems unmanageable even with PM tools, you should be ready to ask for help from somebody else on your team if you have that luxury. Usually, you can give lower-priority tasks to an assistant or a person who has a moderate amount of training in your area of expertise. Optionally, if there is a high-effort, high-priority task, you should consider reaching out to somebody at your level who has a similar degree of skills and experience.
By following the tips above, your tasks at hand can become much more manageable. Even if everything is a priority there are still degree which you can work within to allow you to streamline your day.